Palestinian rights group chief arrested by Israeli intelligence

Khaled Quzmar, general director of Defense of Children International - Palestine, in front of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC (DCI-Palestine)

MEE Staff

Middle East Eye  /  August 21, 2022

Israel continues crackdown on six human rights organizations it says supports terrorism, allegations rejected by UN and EU states.

Israeli intelligence arrested the chief of a prominent Palestinian human rights groups as a crackdown continues on a number of rights organizations.

Khaled Quzmar, general director of Defense of Children International – Palestine (DCIPalestine), was taken into custody on Sunday by the Shin Bet intelligence agency, according to a tweet from the organization.

“Quzmar received a phone call at 2:25 pm local time from a Shin Bet agent summoning him for interrogation. He went to Israel’s Ofer military base soon after,” the organization wrote.

“An eyewitness at Ofer military base saw Quzmar escorted into Shin Bet premises around 3:20 pm. Quzmar was not allowed to have legal counsel accompany him.”

It later said that, after two hours in custody, Quzmar was released.

The arrest is just the latest move in a campaign being waged by Israel against a number of Palestinian human rights organizations in the occupied Palestinian territories.

Rights group crackdown

Six rights groups – Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, Al-Haq, Bisan Center for Research and Development, the Union of Agricultural Work Committees and the Union of Palestinian Women Committees as well as DCIPalestine – were designated as “terrorist organizations” by Israel in October 2021 and since then they have been subjected to increasing scrutiny.

Many of the organizations have received funding from EU countries.

Earlier on Sunday, Al-Haq tweeted that its director had received a threatening phone call from an Israeli intelligence official over its work.

According to Al-Haq, Shawan Jabarin was summoned by the Shin Bet for “interrogation” while the caller made “threats of imprisonment and other measures if Al-Haq continues its work”.

On Friday, Israel raided and forcibly shuttered the rights groups’ offices in the West Bank, with soldiers confiscating items. The offices of the Union of Health Workers Committees, which has not been designated a terrorist organization, were also raided.

The six groups that have been so designated have denied allegations of “terrorism” and their closure has met with criticism from both the United Nations and human rights organizations.

The foreign ministries of Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and Sweden have all said Israel has failed to provide them “substantial information” on the accusations and pledged to continue cooperating with the groups in the absence of any evidence.

“We are deeply concerned by the raids which took place in the morning of 18 August, as part of a worrying reduction of space for civil society” in the territory, they said in a joint statement on Friday.

“These actions are not acceptable.”